World

Cruise Ship Off Florida: Man Overboard Search Suspended In 'Difficult Decision'

Coast Guard crews have suspended their search for a missing passenger believed to have gone overboard from a Carnival Victory cruise ship.

The passenger, 26-year-old Thomas McElhany, is believed to have gone overboard at around 5a.m. on Friday, approximately 35 miles south of Islamorada, Florida according to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

After searching for the missing 26-year-old for approximately 32 hours and covering 2,086 square miles, crews ended their search on Saturday at 10:20p.m. 

In a statement shared by the U.S. Coast Guard, 7th district search and rescue mission coordinator Cmdr. David Aldous said "suspending a search is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make as first responders and it is never made lightly."

Aldous said he had been in contact with member's of McElhany's family "throughout our search efforts," adding that he knows "this is a very difficult and painful time for them."

The U.S. Coast Guard said rescue crews were composed of Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopters, HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplanes, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton, homeported in Key West and the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cochito, homeported in Miami.

Kimberly Wyatt, a journalist who had been on board the cruise ship that McElhaney went missing on, posted a photo of the 26-year-old on Friday and shared live updates from cruise ship officials on Twitter. 

“His photo is being displayed on the television on the cruise ship. Security also conducted a room by room, floor by floor search,” she tweeted.

The Carnival Victory cruise ship also joined in the search, turning back to conduct a search of the area where McElhany was last seen. 

Wyatt said that camera footage had shown that McElhaney had gone overboard, asserting that "it's unknown if he jumped or fell."  

One Twitter user claiming to be a cousin of McElhaney's, Tiffany Jensen, commented on Wyatt's post, saying that the 26-year-old's mother would "definitely want to see the video" showing her son's final moments. 

"We have been absolutely devastated with this happening," Jensen said. 

In a separate tweet, she thanked Coast Guard crews, saying: "Thank you so much for searching."